Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

Driver guilty of M6 family deaths

Paulo Jorge Nogueira da Silva
Da Silva was found guilty of causing the Stathams' deaths

A Portuguese lorry driver has been jailed for causing the deaths of a family of six by careless driving.

David and Michelle Statham and their four children, from Llandudno, north Wales, died when a lorry hit their car as they travelled home from Birmingham.

Paulo Jorge Nogueira da Silva, 46, had denied causing the deaths by dangerous driving or by careless driving on the M6 in Cheshire last October.

He was jailed for three years by a judge at Chester Crown Court.

Da Silva was convicted of six counts of causing death by careless driving by a majority verdict of 11-1. He was found not guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.

Michelle Statham holding baby Ellouise, Mason, 20 months, and Jay, nine
The Statham family were killed when their car burst into flames

After the verdict, Michelle's father Peter Hagans said his family had been devastated Da Silva was found guilty of the "lesser charge".

He said: "I think from the night of the accident when Mr da Silva butchered our family, which I believe he did, it was not possible to get justice in a British court."

Mr Statham, 38, a chef, and his wife, 33, who were originally from Sutton Coldfield, made the journey to the Midlands partly to introduce their 10-week-old baby, Ellouise, to family and friends.

They were also travelling with sons Reece, 13, Jay, nine, and Mason, 20 months as they headed home from visiting Mrs Statham's parents.

However, the family died when their silver people carrier burst into flames after it was involved in a five-vehicle pile-up between junctions 16 and 17 on the M6.

Andrew Thomas QC, prosecuting, had told the jury there was a possibility that at the time of the crash Da Silva was using a global positioning system on his laptop computer to work out an alternative route.

Relatives give their reaction to Da Silva's sentence

Da Silva denied using the computer while he was driving, but police found it by the driver's seat with the screen turned to face the driver.

Speaking to the court the judge, Mr Justice Irwin, said: "Anyone who has heard of the case could not help but have strong, indeed overwhelming, sympathy for the families of those who died, a whole family wiped out."

Sentencing Da Silva, the judge said: "I bear in mind the maximum sentence is five years.

"Although six deaths, this was one episode and the prison sentences must be concurrent.

"This was one of the most serious offences of its kind."

Da Silva was told he would serve at least 18 months of his sentence in jail.

Outside court, Cheshire chief crown prosecutor Ian Rushton said evidence showed the Stathams' car was crushed between a large lorry, which had been queuing in a long tailback because of an earlier accident, and Da Silva's truck.

Court 'a circus'

Mr Rushton said Da Silva admitted in court he had seen the electronic signs warning the M6 was closed and slowed down as a result "but could not explain how the collision happened".

"The prosecution said that it was clear that for a period of around a minute, Paulo da Silva was not paying proper attention to the road and fatally hit the Stathams' van with his 40-tonne lorry," Mr Rushton said.

Expressing his anger at the sentence, Mr Hagans told a news conference the court was "not much more than a circus".

He said: "The only difference being that the man in red in the circus wears a top hat and not a wig."

Mr Statham's uncle, Alan Moult, added the deaths had left all his family "very empty".

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SEE ALSO
Grief for 'model' crash family
16 Feb 09 |  North West Wales
M6 crash bodies 'unrecognisable'
10 Feb 09 |  England
Fatal crash driver 'used laptop'
09 Feb 09 |  England

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